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SPRING CHALLENGE 2020 > Best Review Contest

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message 1: by SRC Moderator (new)

SRC Moderator | 4917 comments Mod
This is the thread where you can submit reviews for the Best Review contest. The thread is open for submissions and will close at Midnight EST on February 15, 2020. Voting will start the next day and run until the end of the GR day on February 29. The person whose review gets the most votes will have the opportunity to design a 20 point task for the Spring Challenge.

To be eligible for this task opportunity you must have achieved at least 100 points on the Winter 2019 Challenge Readerboard by midnight Eastern Time on February 14, 2020. Only one task per person per challenge.

Just a reminder that each person can only submit one review - but you can make edits to your review up until the end. The review does not have to be any particular length and doesn't have to be a positive one (i.e. you can choose to review a book you didn't like).
Please include your Readerboard Name.

PLEASE DO NOT comment on people's reviews in this thread - this is for submissions only - you will be able to comment when voting begins.

SPOILER ALERT!- These reviews may include spoilers

message 2: by Bucket (last edited Feb 10, 2020 04:05PM) (new)

Bucket | 369 comments The Power by Naomi Alderman

Review of Naomi Alderman’s The Power, by BUCKET

Alderman’s book is driven by the force of one question: if women held all the power, would the world be different? To answer it, she inverts the world (and history, too). Young women have power to cause incredible pain and with that they rule the world instead of men. It’s bold and fascinating, but it’s also more of a thought experiment than an immersive story.

I expected a book where women were better, kinder, more magnanimous with their power than men have ever been. That could have been more fun to read, but what Alderman does instead strikes me as much more powerful. She not only doesn’t follow that script, but calls it out as bullshit.

Because can it really be? Do kindness and empathy come more naturally to women? Or, as Alderman indicates, does power corrupt us all equally. Is empathy only natural to those – regardless of gender – who have experienced a lack of power?

Alderman doesn't for one moment slacken her experiment. She boldly puts the words, actions, and motivations that we see as "male" into the bodies and minds of women. And vice versa. For better and for worse, with no exceptions. Right down to genital mutilation and rape, if it has happened to women in the real world, then it happens to men in the book's world.

It's tough to read. Many of these women are awful and the most sympathetic character (Tunde) is male. But the fact that it's a reversal of reality is the real shock. As readers, we’re disgusted seeing this behavior from women. This painfully underlines the truth that in the real world the same behavior is tolerated from men.

Alderman's book is not an indictment of men (or women) but an indictment of unchecked power and, above all else, an indictment of gender roles and norms, and of the gender binary. She shows that the problem isn't our differences, it's reducing our differences to male or female, and all the other categories we push people into for the purpose of doling out power.

This book made me uncomfortable.

It made me angry at the world.

It made me to want to do something about it.

The Power is not a great story – but it is a great treatise; a vehicle for an important message. Don’t read it for fun; read it for its powerful warning.

message 3: by Trish (last edited Feb 10, 2020 04:58AM) (new)

Trish (trishhartuk) | 2536 comments The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid

Reviewed by trishhartuk - currently my only 5* book in 2020

This has been on my TBR for a long time: March 2009, specifically, when the assistant in the bookshop I bought it from recommended it for my Book Club (although I never got around to suggesting it). I’ve kept looking at it, sitting there on the shelf, but Dee’s 50.1 diversity task finally prompted me to actually read it!

Why did I wait so long?

“Excuse me sir, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened by my beard: I am a lover of America. I noticed that you were looking for something; more than looking, in fact you seemed to be on a mission, and since I am both a native of this city and a speaker of your language, I thought I might offer you my services.”

Who is the speaker? Who is he addressing? How did they get here?

The speaker is Changez. A well-educated Pakistani Muslim, who left his country to go to New York to study. He was on the fast track - Princeton, a high-paying job, a smart, educated girlfriend – when 9/11 happened. Slowly his attitude towards the US, and that of his NY colleagues towards him, begins to change.

Through the first-person narrative, you watch Changez go from enthusiastic embracer of the American dream, to someone who becomes more and more disillusioned, both because of the changing attitudes, and as his girlfriend, Erica, has a mental breakdown which destroys their relationship. Ultimately – possibly inevitably, given the title of the book – Changez leaves the US behind, returns to Pakistan, and becomes involved with the anti-American protest movement, including attacks on the US Embassy.

The American listener is never named, but as the narrative develops you realise that rather than just being a tourist, he is something darker. An agent of some kind. Probably CIA. Possibly an assassin. And more than that, you get the impression that
Changez knows exactly who he is, and why he’s there.

It’s not a long book – I read it in maybe three hours - but it's highly thought-provoking. It's obviously a battle of wills, but you only see the one side of it. Moreover, the ending is left completely ambiguous, and could go in one of at least three ways, none of them good for at least one of the main characters, but all, in their own way, inevitable. Normally, that kind of trick annoys me, but here it just seemed to be the only way it could finish.

I’ve seen it described as “experimental”, whatever that really means in a book. Certainly, from what seems like a simple opening, it then proceeded to defy my expectations, and ended up being unlike anything I’ve quite read before.

message 4: by Laura H (last edited Feb 11, 2020 08:32AM) (new)

Laura H (laurah30) | 405 comments Laurah30

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson

I recently selected this book for my book club to read after a number of people recommended it to me. I rated it 5 stars.

The title may make you think of Megan and Harry or William and Kate. Some of you may have thought back to the royal wedding of Charles and Diana but no, this wedding features our current 93 year old monarch, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip. Reading this book at the same time as watching the Netflix series, The Crown, and witnessing the recent real life drama taking place within the modern Royals, made this story particularly engaging.

The story is set in 1947 when then Princess Elizabeth is set to wed the handsome Philip Mountbatten of Greece. Post World War 2 Britain is still reeling from the devastation of being under siege as well as facing deep economic woes. The country is still experiencing wide spread rationing and the society is adjusting to a shifting class system. The main characters of the story are Anne Hughes and Miriam Dassin, members of a team of seamstresses, charged with the responsibility of making the royal wedding gown. The story of their shared talent in embroidery, their struggles as young women in post war Britain, as well as their enduring friendship make this a novel worth reading.

The story of Miriam, a Jewish seamstress from France, adds a further dimension of tension to this story as the reader tries to understand her place in this friendship and what may have happened to her during the Nazi occupation of France.

The novel flashes forward to present day and involves Ann’s granddaughter who lives in Toronto. Heather is a restless journalist, recently let go from her comfortable but unfulfilling magazine job, who finds a packet belonging to her Nan after the older woman passes away. This packet, addressed to her by her grandmother, includes embroidery samples that are old and exquisite and motivate Heather to find out more about her grandmother’s mysterious past.

Jennifer Robson effectively uses historical detail within this story of the women who were proud to contribute to the much needed celebration that the Royal Wedding of 1947 represented during this transitory time in Britain’s history. I appreciated the sense of legacy this book provides and the strength of the female characters. It is a story that celebrates resilience.

message 5: by TraceyL (last edited Feb 15, 2020 08:18AM) (new)

TraceyL | 945 comments TraceyL

The Other People by C.J. Tudor

I don't normally read thrillers but this was a book club pick so I gave it a shot.

There was too many layers to this mystery. For the first two thirds of the book I was having a good time. I wasn't super engrossed but it was an interesting enough idea, and the audiobook is narrated by Richard Armitage who makes everything sound good. But once the mystery started getting revealed, I thought the author was trying way to hard to make a unique ending that no one has seen before. I would much rather have had a simpler ending which made sense. The author piled on so many different elements to the story which were completely unnecessary, and it bothered me enough to drop a star off my rating.

Below are spoilers which give away the plot, so only read them if you 1) have no interest in reading this book, or 2) already read it and want to see what the heck I'm talking about.

(view spoiler)

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